Social media (SM) confuses many business people. There are so many SM sites and sorting through them seems impossible. There’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, etc., and then there’s the ones with unusual names, StumbleUpon or Posterous, to name two. No doubt, there are too many for a non-professional to evaluate and, since most SM sites are awash with non-customers for most businesses, why would anyone in a traditional marketing role take the time. So what should marketing professionals do about social media? Here’s my take:
1. Focus your activities:
Information overload saps efficiency and limits productivity, that’s why many of us hate email. Take the time to investigate the top 25-50 social media sites and see if your company, your products, your competitors or your key industry words are prominent. Do a generic Google search for the same terms (company, product, competitors and you) just to see if you’ve missed anything. If any of the social media networks you evaluate have activity around your company, products or competitors, then join and monitor those networks. This approach let’s you focus on what’s important and weed out most of the “social media noise.”
2. Determine who is saying what:
SM is the perfect mechanism to learn who’s talking about you online. There are companies, such as Aligned Marketing (yes, that’s a shameless plug), that can break down the demographics of the people talking about your brand by gender, age and geography. If the demographics match your target audience then, again, you’ll need to pay close attention to those conversations and be ready to engage quickly, which brings us to the next point.
3. Join the conversation:
Being proactive is better than being reactive. Joining the online conversation allows you to speak directly with your target audience, your customers and your detractors. You can monitor the conversation. You can’t manage the conversation, per se, but you can insert your own perspective and, hopefully, influence the direction of the conversation. Engaging gives you the opportunity to react, share your side and, perhaps, steer a negative comment into a customer service success story before it becomes a trend.
4. Share what you learn:
Use your social media research and your available tools to capture relevant information. Organize your information and use traditional reporting tools, such as charts, graphs and PowerPoint, to combine both qualitative and quantitative analysis, to inform your organization. As you learn more about what’s being said online and share within your organization, you may find that even your most ardent critics will realize that spending a portion of your marketing budget to monitor online conversations is wise.
I may be wrong but, like it or not, I don’t think this stuff is going away.